Lozada asks Sandiganbayan justices to step aside



Rodolfo Lozada Jr.: A motion to recuse. FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines—Rodolfo Lozada Jr. has asked members of the Sandiganbayan’s Fourth Division to abstain from hearing the graft cases filed against him that stemmed from his stint as president and CEO of the Philippine Forest Corp.

The whistle-blower filed on Friday a motion to recuse in which he accused the chairman of the antigraft court’s Fourth Division, Associate Justice Gregory Ong, of  making unflattering remarks against him that betrayed the magistrate’s bias.

In a four-page motion, Lozada’s counsel, Jose Manuel I. Diokno, said that Ong made several remarks during hearings on the graft cases on May 29 and 30 that he feared may have undue influence on the proceedings.

Diokno said Ong had asked if Lozada would issue a waiver of appearance and later commented that the whistle-blower was being “escorted by too many people” to the hearings.

In another hearing, Diokno said Ong commented that Lozada “loves talking” and even admonished him for smiling.

“The foregoing comments indicate that His Honor has formed a negative opinion about Mr. Lozada; that it would be better if Mr. Lozada and his supporters do not personally attend the trial, and that Mr. Lozada talks too much and smiles too often,” the defense said. “The comment also shows that His Honor has been monitoring the situation of Mr. Lozada vis-à-vis President Benigno Aquino Jr. even if this is neither material nor relevant to the cases at bar.”

Lozada’s counsel cited Section 4 of Canon 3 of the New Code of Judicial Conduct of the Philippine Judiciary, which warns judges about making any comment that could affect the outcome of proceedings.

In 2008 Lozada’s testimony during a Senate inquiry implicated former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her husband in bribery and kickbacks allegedly tainting the NBN deal with the Chinese telecom company ZTE.

Lozada’s graft cases stemmed from his stint as president and CEO of Philippine Forest Corp. six years ago when he awarded leasehold rights to idle government land to his brother and a company with ties to his wife.

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